Dealing with comment spam

I’m a little late to the party, but if you missed it, Google made an interesting announcement on their weblog yesterday: “From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel=”nofollow”) on hyperlinks, those links won’t get any credit when we rank websites in our search results.” The goal is to reduce the potential benefit that spammers derive from mass-posting hyperlinks to themselves in weblog comment sections.
Not long ago I had to turn off my own comment section when the housecleaning, even with MT-Blacklist installed, became more trouble than it was worth. Also of concern was the machine cost of filtering the comments. Movable Type is a CGI program, which means that each request spawns a new Unix process. Bleah. Of course I could probably make things a lot faster with FastCGI, but it boils down to what you want to spend your time on. If you want to comment on this weblog, you’re most welcome to do so — on your own weblog. We have great tools at our disposal, I’ll see it.
With comments turned off, this weblog still routinely gets over a thousand spam attempts per day. It brought me around to the view that even though the spammers could save resources by detecting failure, there’s simply no reason to bother because the cost of spamming is so low. If even one person clicks on the spam link, it’s worth the trouble.
The Google proposal is cool because it at least takes some of the juice out of comment spamming. I don’t think it will have much of an impact, though. None of the hyperlinks in my email inbox raise the spammer’s Google rank, but they just keep coming. Much cooler is the collaborative push by all those vendors listed on the announcement. Now that’s an accomplishment I can get excited about!

Mail’s working again. Joy! If you sent me something and got a bounce, it’s safe to resend.

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